Monday, November 9, 2015

S.D. Skye's Hell or High Water 365-Day Blogathon -- Day 149 -- Outlining

Anything Sunday -- How I Outline

I'm all caught up on my blogs. Finally finished the draft of my romance novel and now I'm onto more new and exciting...writing.

I have BIG plans (mentally) to publish five books next year. Three novellas and the last two J.J. McCall novels. The only way I'll ever meet this goal is to outline all the novels, write straight through, and have a really good editor.

I think I now have all the ingredients to make it happen. So, I've just got do get the work done.

So what do I mean by outlining?

Well, my outlines DO NOT look anything like that picture on the right. There is no real formal structure per se when you look at them. It's more like a scene by scene summary. They always have a beginning, middle, and end. The end always has a hook that will move the reader to the next chapter. And the beginning always integrates the hook from the previous related chapter, so readers don't get lost in the story.

My scenes are always connected. If there is one mistake I've seen from new writers is that they don't write in the continuity from one scene to the other, and when you move on through the story, it takes a while to get oriented.

My outlines are usually dialogue-heavy or narrative heavy--usually not both. Depends on where the story is but sometimes I want to remind myself of the action. And sometimes I want to remind myself of the conversations that move the story forward.

What outlines help me to do is ensure that I am aware of PACING through the entire story. If you have pacing issues when you write, then you probably need to outline.

 If I write three plots -- one main and two subs, which is typical in my JJ McCall novels. I usually establish the pattern early in the books of how the reader will see those plots...this is just to help keep them oriented. 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3...and I try to keep all of the chapters the same length. The beginnings, middles, and endings, usually happen in the same rhythm. That method makes for "easy reading" especially when you have complex story lines, as I often do. The more complex your story, the better your reader will benefit from these kinds of patterns and rhythms.

 The most important thing about outlining is that you MUST allow yourself to take the story in another (typically better) direction if the writing bears that out. Don't feel compelled to stick to them if you or your characters think of something better. The best scenes in the J.J. McCall novels usually were not planned...and they weren't on the outlines. But what the outlines should do is help your productivity, so you have a place to start and end every day if your muse goes off on a bender (as mine frequently does).

Hope some of you found that helpful. Now, I'm off to finish up my J.J. outlines. New chapter previews coming soon!

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